Saturday, September 22, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils: Laurentien and Venus Paradise

Laurentien colored pencil packaging

Earlier this year when I was surfing around on eBay for vintage colored pencils, an interesting name caught my attention: Laurentien, a Canadian brand. The name popped up relatively frequently, sometimes in large bulk quantities, so I deduced that these pencils were no longer being produced but were also not rare. The sets I saw most often were of 12 or 24 colors packaged in plastic cases.

Some Internet research revealed that this colored pencil brand was fondly and nostalgically remembered by Canadians who used them in elementary school much the way Americans look back at Crayola. Unlike Crayola, however, Laurentien pencils were apparently pleasant to use.

Win a Commodore home computer system!
Curious, I waited for an inexpensive, used set to appear, and shortly thereafter, an interesting offer popped up: Two packages were for sale together, and one had a label promoting a giveaway of a Commodore computer! Instantly dating the pencils for the 1980s, the package made the offer irresistible.

The two incomplete sets I bought – both with the Faber Castell logo on the cases – might be of slightly different ages. The barrels of one set say “Venus Canada” while the others say only “Canada.” In addition, the pencils that say Venus Canada include color names in English only. The pencils labeled Canada show color names in both English and French. A distinguishing feature of
Faber Castell's logo appears on both packages
Laurentien colored pencils are the color numbers, which are intended for use with color-by-number coloring books. (Some of those corresponding coloring books can still be found on eBay.)

The name Venus was familiar to me from vintage graphite and colored pencils I’ve seen on eBay, including the small set of American Venus watercolor pencils I reviewed earlier this year. In that review, I mentioned the two random Venus Paradise pencils I had dug up at a local thrift shop. Disappointingly, the watercolor pencils were not nearly as soft and pigmented as the Venus Paradise, so I went on a hunt for more of the latter.

Eventually I acquired a used set of 12 Venus Paradise, which are relatively rare compared to other Venus colored pencils. When examined, I saw that the Paradise pencils have the same color numbers as the Laurentien pencils! The plot thickens!
In each color pair, the upper pencil is Venus Paradise; the lower is Laurentien. The color numbers match.

A nearly complete set of color numbers 1 - 24. Some say Canada; others say Venus Canada.

Some color names are in English only; others include French.

Indeed, it didn’t take long to discover that Laurentien and Venus Paradise were basically the same pencils marketed in Canada and the US, respectively. The most informative article came from the Canadian Design Resource, which said the following:

Although Laurentien (then spelled Laurentian) pencil crayons were made in Canada right from the start, The Venus Pencil Company Ltd. also marketed the same pencils under the brand name ‘Paradise’ in the United States. Both brands were developed for Colour-By-Number kits, and they both kept the same colour names and numbering system. This would explain some of the more exotic colour names like “#2 Sarasota Orange” and “#4 Hollywood Cerise.”
During the 1960’s, a couple of Canadian innovations were made: The packaging was changed to the portable vinyl pouches, and space for labeling on the pencil was introduced to deter theft from classmates.
In 1972, a year before Faber-Castell bought Venus, the French spelling “Laurentien” was trademarked in an attempt to increase sales in Quebec.
Sanford acquired the brand in 1994, and in 2001 they changed the packaging and discontinued the vinyl pouch.
Intriguing information for a colored pencil historian! It made me happier than ever that I had gotten sets in vinyl pouches (not to mention the Commodore promotion).

Two logo designs on Venus Paradise pencils
Left: Venus Paradise; right: Laurentien
I say that Laurentien and Paradise are “basically” the same because they aren’t identical. The Paradise core is ever-so-slightly thicker and feels a bit waxier.

The Paradise set I bought on eBay has a slightly different logo design than the two random ones I found at the thrift store (I’m particularly fond of the logo on the light blue and green ones from the thrift shop).

As for how they apply, both pencils are soft and waxy but don’t layer and blend as well as other soft pencils I’ve used. Still, for pencils intended for elementary school children, they are pleasant and certainly useable (a far cry from the hard, unpigmented Crayola pencils that I remember from my youth). As the only Canadian colored pencil in my collection (or that I even know of), the Laurentien remains unique and special.

5/27/18 Laurentien colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

Friday, September 21, 2018

Seven Years on This Journey


Seven years ago today, I began a drawing habit. Every year on this anniversary, I indulge in long-winded introspection about my practice and process. Last year I got so long-winded that I had to divide my musings into three posts (part 1, part 2 and part 3). I’ll spare you this time and keep my commentary brief:

During the first couple of years that I was sketching, I showed the most growth and improvement. My learning trajectory was mostly straight up simply because I went from never practicing to practicing daily. When that improvement started to taper off, even though I was still sketching as much as ever, my biggest fear was that I would eventually hit a plateau and never get past it.

In the years after that, I continued to see incremental improvements – not the more gratifying leaps I made in the beginning, but still mostly steady movement in the right direction. Every now and then I slide back discouragingly, but somehow I always get back on track. Rusty whenever I return to life drawing after a long period, the nuts and bolts eventually get oiled again. That recurring pattern has given me reassurance that my creative progress looks more like a series of rolling hills rather than a rocket (an insight I had even when I was just starting).

11/17/11 Here's a self-portrait I made directly in ink within two months
after I started sketching. Rather brave of me, huh? I see I cleaned up my
eyebrows! ;-)
The last two years I made a concentrated effort on formal learning by studying a total of 25 weeks with Suzanne Brooker at Gage (first with color, then with graphite). More recently, Eduardo Bajzek changed the way I responded to values by giving me a new take on graphite. And all of that learning has led me to experiment with teaching myself how to understand values better (see yesterday’s post). I no longer waste energy worrying about when I’m going to hit a plateau. Instead, I’m hopeful that I’ll always have some capacity to continue learning.

Perhaps the most gratifying part about my journey is simple: Now when I look at a sketch I’ve just finished, I’m more often happy than unhappy. But regardless of how I feel about that last sketch, the important part is this: I always turn the page and make the next one.

(My previous years’ anniversary posts are here: 20162015201420132012.)


12/1/11 When I first started, I wrote a lot more commentary to accompany the sketches than I do now. As a lifelong
journal keeper, I was more comfortable writing in public than sketching, so when I felt nervous, I often
wrote notes like this to relax before starting the next sketch.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Purple Shadows, Yellow Trees

9/17/18 Wedgwood neighborhood

Ever since my head exploded in Eduardo Bajzek’s workshop, I’ve been thinking about his graphite technique and trying to figure out how I can do it with color. As much as I love graphite – its material simplicity; its monochrome elegance; its incomparable richness when applied well – I always miss color when I use it. Especially this time of year when brilliant color fills the urban landscape, I can’t bring myself to use a monochrome medium.

Then again, I know all too well how distracted and confused I can get by color. As soon as I start focusing on hues and trying to match what I see to the colors in my palette, I forget all about values. And if there’s one thing I have learned over and over in every class I’ve taken and every book I’ve read on drawing, it’s that values are king. If you get the values right, a sketch will “read” properly, regardless of color.

1/26/17 photo reference
When I was taking the landscape drawing class in colored pencil last year, it was the first time I seriously studied how to use color to convey form and value. One of the most informative exercises we did was to use only three pencils to draw a tree (at left): a green for the mid-values; a warm yellow for the sunny side; a cool blue for the shadows. In the same way that Eduardo’s workshop helped me to see and understand values in a way I had not before, this tree assignment simplified color into three basic values. I felt enlightened.

Although yellow/green/blue is a natural palette to use for a tree (since optically mixing yellow + blue = green), I don’t think it would have mattered which three colors I had used. The enlightening part was that looking only at these three hues made it easy to “codify” the values in my mind. I looked at the reference photo of the tree, and wherever I saw light, I colored the tree with yellow. Wherever I saw shadows and shade, I used blue. Everything else was the green mid-value.

In later assignments when we could use as many hues as we wanted to, I often got confused when I was trying to indicate local color (the color I see on that rock) and the values (the difference between the light and shaded sides of the rock). I sometimes resorted to “codifying” the values as I did in the tree exercise: I’ll use this hue for the sunny side of the rock, and that hue for the shaded side. Eventually I would blend everything with numerous pencils so that it all looked more natural, but developing a “code” helped my brain understand it.

All those lessons working with photos have stayed with me on some cerebral level, but when I’m sketching on location, my very literal mind gets confused about local hues and values again. And yet when I use nothing but graphite on location, it’s much easier not to get confused. Black and white are already an abstracted code. I squint, I see the lights, mediums and darks, and I can get the job done with one pencil.

Thinking about all of this, I decided to play the codifying game on location, but to trick my pea brain, I tried to avoid literal hues. In the sketch at the top of the page, the small aspen really was a brilliant yellow, so I allowed my literal brain to start there, and then I continued to put in yellow wherever I saw light on other trees (yellow = light). I started to make the other trees green, but then I stopped myself and put their shadows in with dark blue and purple (blue/purple = shade). The result is somewhat garish, but I hope it “reads” accurately.

The next day at the arboretum, the light was brilliant on one of my favorite trees there, a decorative cherry (below). Remembering the yellow/purple complement I used on the street scene, I gave the combo another shot, using green for the mid-values.

My intention isn’t necessarily to continue sketching in abstract, non-literal colors, but if I can apply to urban sketching the same kind of codifying I taught myself while drawing from photos, maybe I’ll eventually figure out how to make the leap from monochrome to color without losing the values.

9/18/18 Washington Park Arboretum

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Alice’s Tomatoes

9/15/18 heirloom tomatoes

I’ve sketched a lot of tomatoes – they’re probably my second-most-often sketched fruit after apples – but these tomatoes are special. Not only were they the most delicious tomatoes I’ve eaten this year; they were grown by my friend and neighbor Alice. She said this summer, her garden’s tomatoes were the best they had ever been. I guess all those weeks of dry heat were good for something.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Losing Ground, Gaining it Back Again

9/13/18 10-min. pose

I hadn’t been to a Gage life drawing session since June. It took me at least the first two hours to feel like my hand and arm had finally warmed up, but even after another hour, I didn’t find my mojo. Whenever I go back to life drawing after a summer hiatus (I can’t bear to draw indoors when the weather is beautiful), I feel rusty for weeks. That’s the way it is with the practice of practice – it has to be continuous.

10-min. pose

During the spring and summer when I was sketching houses in my neighborhood regularly, I think my architectural drawing skills improved. But now that I can’t sketch outdoors much anymore, I’ll probably be rusty by the time I resume my series again.

I know it’s not possible to practice everything all the time, but after a long break, I wish I could just pick up where I left off. It doesn’t seem to work that way, though. Fortunately, the ground I lose isn’t permanent. The more regularly I go to life drawing, the easier and faster it will be to get back to where I was.

2-min. poses

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fire Station No. 2 and Belltown

9/16/18 Fire Station No. 2 and other Belltown landmarks

It was déjà vu all over again.

Just like Friday, I woke to pouring rain, wondering if I would be alone at the meetup location. An overhang and some large trees would offer some shelter to sketchers who wanted to face Fire Station No. 2 in Belltown, but if we got the thunderstorms and heavy rain forecast by, it wouldn’t be much fun. In addition, the Storm’s WNBA championship parade at Seattle Center was expected to make traffic and parking difficult in the area.

The hardcore who showed up at the start time!
But again, just like Friday, the showers turned into sunshine, and the handful of sketchers who met me at the start time turned into a strong showing by the time of the throwdown!

Despite the blue sky directly above, I was leery that the rain could return at any moment and reluctant to commit to a page-size composition that I might have to abandon. Instead, I decided to make a series of small sketches in Michele Cooper’s montage style. My first stop was Station No. 2, the focus of our outing. Designated a landmark in 1985, the 1921-built facility houses one engine company, a ladder unit, a medic unit and a reserve medic unit (some of which we saw coming out and back into the station as we sketched). 

One of the fire trucks responding to an emergency as we
Next I wanted to capture the Space Needle flying Seattle Storm’s flag. I’m not a basketball fan, but it was exciting to see a women’s team being celebrated as an alternative to the usual Seahawks’ 12 flag at this time of year. (The drops on my Needle sketch indicate that standing under a tree while sketching isn’t necessarily a good strategy when it has been raining all night.)

The historic bell had captured several other sketchers’ attention, and for good reason. From the station that was near the same location in the 1800s, the bell sounded an alarm that could be heard for “nearly 10 miles,” said the plaque. “The horse-drawn engine then responded to the location.”

(Contrary to my speculation, the Belltown neighborhood was not named for this bell, which had an important emergency response role in the 1800s. It was named for William Nathaniel Bell, a member of the Denny party that originally settled Seattle. In addition, Virginia Street and Olive Way were named after his children. It’s a good thing I sketch and blog about my sketches or I’d never learn such local trivia.)
Natalie and Antonella sketching the historic bell.

By then the strong wind had chilled me, so I went to look for coffee. Walking back, I looked up at the numerous cranes and construction sites in Belltown. To complete my montage, I picked an apartment complex going up on Second Avenue and Wall Street (one of many such boxy buildings popping up all over the city).

Once again, hooray for hardy sketchers who say bah-humbug to dire weather forecasts!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Furtive Color

I worked very quickly and furtively because I had to park illegally to get this sketch. But who could resist color like this?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Woodland Park Rose Garden

9/14/18 Woodland Park Rose Garden

During the iffy-weather season (and by that I mean September through June), USk Seattle must have a contingency plan for any outdoor event. In August when we planned yesterday’s outing to Woodland Park Zoo’s Rose Garden, it was so warm and sunny that we thought we’d still have a good chance of dry weather by mid-September. Our contingency plan was optimism.

Looking out the window at the downpour as I got ready to leave for Woodland Park, I wondered if I would be standing at the meeting point alone. Only three other sketchers joined me, and we applauded ourselves for being hardcore urban sketchers! Luckily, it was barely sprinkling by then, and in between intermittent spitting, the sun came out! And a little later, many other sketchers joined us.

Although most of the roses were past their prime, the garden was still full of color from late-blooming flowers as well as trees just beginning to turn. (Trivia from the zoo’s website: Spent flowers from the pesticide-free garden are fed to zoo animals, especially the gorillas, who love floral snacks.) The topiary, bushes and lawn were lush and bright green from the recent rain – something we haven’t seen in months. After all that heat and wildfire smoke, it finally felt “normal” again.

A few weeks ago when my Drawing Nature class met at this same garden, I was intrigued by the fanciful topiary. It was fun tackling one of the funky trees with charcoal, but in the back of my mind, I fully intended to sketch one again sometime in color. I went out to the middle of the garden so that I could place the gazebo in the same composition.

After strolling around a while to admire the well-tended plantings, I walked through the Sensory Garden, which features bells and chimes that can be played, an artificial hill, and other interactive exhibits. I liked the composition of the bright blue poles and slender trees behind them.

Yay for sketchers who scoff at a little rain!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Contemporary Bicolors

A few bicolor pencils I have known.

Despite appearances, my intention is not (and never was) to amass every kind of bicolor pencil I can get my hands on. Although I do love them from a pencil geek perspective (if a pencil with one usable end is wonderful, surely a double-ended pencil is twice as wonderful!), and although I do have some strong nostalgic associations with Empire Sunset Dual-Kolors that may be one source of my lifelong affection for colored pencils, I have a purely pragmatic motivation for hunting the bicolor pencil grail: I could carry twice as many colors in my sketch kit while taking up the same amount of space (or carry the same number of colors and make my kit smaller). A good quality (not necessarily artist quality, but decent) bicolor – and even better, with a water-soluble core – has long been on my sketch material wish list.

I think the closest I will ever come to the grail is the set of vintage Design Spectracolor Doublecolor pencils I acquired earlier this year on eBay, to my intense glee. The only feature they lack is a water-soluble core, but that may be too much to ask, given that I have never yet seen a water-soluble bicolor pencil (except for the red/blue Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999). They are otherwise an excellent colored pencil.

However, because I know those Doublecolors are rare and potentially expensive, I remain interested in finding a contemporary, easily available set of bicolors to recommend. To that end, I’ve rounded up three reasonably priced sets worth considering.

Chameleon Color Tones
Around the time I bought them, Austria-made Chameleon Color Tones were being heavily promoted on Amazon and Facebook, so they were nearly impossible to ignore. Unlike most bicolor pencils, the Chameleons’ 50 colors (25 pencils) are paired so that each pencil contains two shades of the same hue – light green with dark green; light blue with dark blue. The concept is that you could easily create shading or gradations – “just flip to blend.” I probably don’t know how to take advantage of that admittedly unique feature because I have to see all the colors available and choose from the whole crowd, not just the one on the opposite end, but it is an intriguing concept.

4/4/18 Chameleon Color Tones in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
The Chameleon hexagonal barrels are thicker than average – about the same as my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum pencils. They contain reasonably strong pigment, but the cores are a bit harder than I prefer and generate dust. The color range is a little stingy on yellows but generous in greens (although two are very similar).

For my apple sketch, the hard core was a good pairing with Stillman & Birn Alpha’s tooth. Despite being harder than I like, they apply well and are pleasant to use – in an “average” kind of way. In other words, they are serviceable, but nothing to write home about.

Colleen bicolors
I was more excited about the set of 48 (24 pencils) Colleen bicolors. Colleen, a vintage Japanese brand that I recognized from the triangular-shaped face logo, produced high-quality pencils at one time, so I was eager to see if these followed suit. Unfortunately, this set (and probably most others under the current Colleen name) was made in Thailand, and a couple of the cores are off-center. The wood is of the type I see often in India-made pencils.

2/10/18 Colleen bicolor pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
Disappointed that they aren’t of Japanese quality, I was surprised that they are the softest of all the bicolors I’ve tried (other than the aforementioned vintage Doublecolors) and contain good pigment that blended well in my apple sketch. If you prefer softer pencils, this Colleen set is a good value (much better than the Chameleons).

Of note are the neon colors included in the Colleen range – of interest to me because I’m always trying to find neon colors that reproduce vividly and accurately when scanned. With my penchant for sketching construction projects, where workers and traffic cones often sport neon colors, I probably use those hues more than you’d expect. For whatever reason, though, all the ones I’ve tried look faded and not at all neon once scanned. There must be something about the neon pigments that don’t photograph well. Although the Colleen neons are a bit better than most, their scanned images still look like a faint shadow of the colors in my sketchbook. Strange. Also note that six neons are included, but the two yellow-greens are very similar, as are the two pinks.
Colleen's neon colors
This type of near-duplication of hues is something I see often in non-artist-quality colored pencil sets. A box may say it contains 48 or 72 colors, but after swatching them all, you discover that many are so similar they hardly qualify as different hues. I found this to be true of Staedtler bicolors also. Endorsed by coloring book designer Johanna Basford, these pencils have a triangular barrel like a few other colored pencil lines from Staedtler. Including 48 colors (24 pencils), several of the pinks, oranges and yellows are fairly similar.

Staedtler bicolors

Some similar hues in the Staedtler set
On the harder side, they apply with a waxy consistency and blend better than I expected. The point retention is useful for details. My apple sketch was made on Stillman & Birn Epsilon’s smoother surface. Despite the similarity of some colors, the Staedtler set is a very good value, especially if you prefer a harder core.

8/29/18 Staedtler bicolors in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
I don’t usually spend much time discussing packaging, since I rarely use or store pencils in the packages they are sold in. I prefer to keep them upright in cups on my desk, or if they come with me in my bag, they go directly into my Tran Portfolio Pencil Case. However, it’s worth mentioning the box that the Staedtler set comes in, which is a very compact, lightweight cardboard box. It won’t last forever, but if you take colored pencils into the field only occasionally, it’s an ideal grab-and-go package that fits easily in most bags. That would not be true of the large, flat trays that the Chameleon and Colleen pencils come in.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Maple on the North Side

9/10/18 Greenwood neighborhood

You’ve seen these three maples many times – my favorites in the Greenwood neighborhood. I sketch them periodically throughout the season to watch their color progress. As is their pattern every year, the one on the north side of the traffic circle always starts to turn before the other two. The one on the south side looks a little haggard compared to previous years, as if it has lost some leaves already. Maybe our record-breaking dry summer took its toll.

These were sketched on Sept. 10, a cloudy, breezy day. At right is what they looked like just about a year ago.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Metro Couch

9/9/18 Green Lake neighborhood

During Labor Day weekend – one of the year’s busiest weekends for moving, I’ve heard – my hunt for urban couches came up empty. I guess people in the Green Lake neighborhood are just a bit behind schedule, because a week later, I spotted this one right next to a bus stop. A comfy place to wait if you miss your bus, right?

Paper note: Ahhh. . . it feels so good to be sketching on thick, toothy Canson XL 140-pound paper again! With watercolor pencils, I love everything about it. As long as I’m using color, it’s going to have to stay in my bag.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Result of Paper Tests: Angst

These are the papers I've been testing with graphite.

A few weeks ago I concluded that my long-time favorite sketchbook paper, 140-pound Canson XL watercolor paper, wasn’t going to work with the graphite techniques I’ve been practicing since I learned them from Eduardo Bajzek in Porto. While it’s ideal for my needs with water-soluble colored pencils, ink, brush pens and markers, the cold press finish is too toothy for graphite, especially when it’s smudged.

Test Criteria

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of different types of paper I have on hand. The paper must be satisfactory with graphite and also satisfactory with other media I use most often. To be satisfactory with graphite, the surface must be smooth enough to smudge with an even tone and erase easily (two essential techniques with Eduardo’s method). To be satisfactory with my other favorite media, the paper must be able to withstand at least a light spritzing of water (a technique I employ often with water-soluble colored pencils). In fact, ability to withstand moisture is also a requirement with graphite because the spritzed-on fixative I’ve been using causes thin papers to buckle irreparably.  


Clockwise from upper left, they are:


The short story: No single paper is going to make me happy with all the media I want to use in the way that 140-pound Canson XL made me happy for years – until I introduced graphite into the mix.

The long story: Many papers that are excellent with graphite make me unhappy (some very unhappy) with most of the other media I like to use.

At least two papers were easy to reject. The first was the Derwent sketch pad that I received at the symposium and used in Eduardo’s workshop. While its tooth is acceptable with graphite, it’s difficult to erase and too thin for use with any liquid media. I was also quick to reject Borden & Riley vellum, which is also too light to use with anything but dry media. It is the only paper I tested that did not accommodate Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens; the ink sunk straight through the sheet and continued to bleed onto the next page.
The Derwent sketch pad is difficult to erase cleanly.
The Bristol vellum papers, with an acceptable tooth, are more difficult to erase, so I rejected them, too.

9/3/18 Strathmore Bristol vellum

My favorite papers with graphite – especially with the smudging/erasing techniques – are Bristol smooth (both Strathmore and Canson) and Stillman & Birn Epsilon. The surfaces on all three are pleasantly smooth but have just enough texture to take graphite beautifully. They also erase easily.

Strathmore Bristol smooth
Canson Bristol smooth
9/6/18 Stillman & Birn Epsilon

I prefer the texture of cold press paper with
water-soluble colored pencils.
The big – huge! – issue with all of the above graphite favorites is that they are not sized appropriately for wet media, even if they are sufficiently heavy in weight. (All are about 100 pound in weight, which buckles when wet but flattens out adequately after drying.) For example, dry colored pencil applies as well as graphite does, but when I spritz or brush water-soluble colored pencil pigments with water to activate them, the pigments do not spread as easily, and the hues seem less vibrant. In addition, once the activated pigments dry, the paper surface changes in a way that additional layers of colored pencil do not apply well. This is a major drawback in terms of achieving intense hues with watercolor pencils.

In most of my watercolor pencil sketches, I also miss the texture that I enjoy with Canson XL’s 140-pound paper.

An equally disappointing result is the way water-soluble inks perform on Bristol smooth papers. On my favorite Canson XL watercolor paper, I am accustomed to easily shading such inks with a quick swipe of the waterbrush. A few days ago at the farmers’ market, I was using a water-soluble Kuretake Fudegokochi brush pen to sketch people sitting in the grass. As is my habit, I grabbed a waterbrush to wash the lines – and the lines barely moved. I kept squeezing out more water, thinking that the brush was dry, but to no avail. I finally took out a Pitt marker to add shading.

I couldn't get the water-soluble Fudegokochi ink to move on Strathmore Bristol smooth.

Here’s a comparison of Canson XL 140-pound watercolor paper and Strathmore Bristol smooth with a few favorite water-soluble media (Note: The third sample on each paper is mislabeled; it should be ArtGraf water-soluble carbon, not graphite):

Strathmore Bristol smooth

Canson XL 140-pound watercolor paper


These are my options:

1. The most obvious solution seems the simplest: I always stitch my own sketchbook signatures anyway, so why don’t I simply bind together a mix of papers – some for graphite, some for everything else? It’s one of the biggest benefits of hand binding – I can use any papers I want. It does sound simple – except that I like to keep my sketches chronological, and how do I know which medium I want to use when I get to a particular type of paper in the signature?

2. If I’m willing to give up chronology, I could carry two signatures – one with my favorite Canson watercolor paper; one with a Bristol smooth – which would be less confusing and preferable to paging through a signature of mixed papers to find the appropriate page. But that would mean carrying more paper.

3. I could simplify and lighten my bag significantly by choosing only one media type and therefore need only one paper type. (Not a chance.)

4. I could do a variation of No. 3 but only for a limited time, such as the minimal sketch kit challenge I gave myself last winter. A plan like that would enable me to keep my sketches chronological and have the benefit of lightening my load.


Now that I’ve embraced fall, I absolutely must have color in my bag through November, so I’ll be switching back to 140-pound Canson XL at least for that duration. Maybe I’ll also carry a thin signature of Bristol smooth for occasional graphite sketches and see if I can tolerate the broken chronology. Then during the gray winter months, perhaps I’ll go on an all-graphite diet.

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